Indian Advocates warm up to Climate Change

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New Delhi, May 4: Calling themselves defenders of public interest, a group of Indian lawyers have demanded ''strict and stringent laws and regulations'' to deal with consequences of climate change or global warming. ''Climate Change is a threat to the rule of law,'' warned a resolution adopted last evening at a conference organised by Bar Association of India on Climate Change And The Role of Law.

''The legal profession must pay attention to the vital need to take care of the environmental quality,'' the resolution said. There was no word, except in a speech or two, on factors already believed to undermine rule of law-- unclear laws, incessant delays, huge case pendencies and inadequate response to lapses or misconduct in governance.

The two day event was opened by former Chief Justice of India Jagdish Sharan Verma who painted the looming dangers of global warming to ''peace and security.'' Justice Verma said deforestation, desertification, melting glaciers and rising sea levels could pose a threat to the habitat of millions and asked where these people would then find a new place to live.

He called for a change to an environmentally sustainable lifestyle and said the legal profession was duty-bound to create public awareness about the hazards of climate change.

Association President Fali Sam Nariman cited British efforts to be the first nation with a legal framework to tackle climate change and asked ''why can't we be the second country in the world to establish such a legal framework.'' Participants grappled for two days with such issues as the good earth, air as a unique resource, water management, energy needs and role of law in the context of climate change.

The valedictorian was an Amity Law School undergraduate, Diksha Sharma, whose thrust was: Do not sacrifice our future.

Keynote speakers included Dipankar P Gupta, K C Mittal, P H Parekh, Adish C Aggarwala, Manoj Kumar and Sushil Salwan.

Gupta drew attention to India's failure to stop production and smuggling of chlorofluorocarbons banned in many nations because they deplete the ozone layer insulating the earth from the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays.

BAI spokesman Lalit Bhasin said more than 200 delegates from around the nation, representing some 50 bar groups, took part.

Explaining the deliberations, Bhasin pointed to possible consequences-- submerged coastal areas, for instance-- which may force large groups of people to find new homes.

In interviews, delegates acknowledged that efforts must be made to pin responsibility for this crime against the human race.

The resolution said ''the current legal systems do not properly take into account the complexities of the consequences of global warming'' and underscored ''a legal response to the challenges of global climate change.'' The conferees stressed ''a reconciliation of the economic and juridical valuation of global interdependence including compensating peoples who forego development in order to protect eco-system services and those who use more should pay more." Last year, scientists of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change-- headed by an Indian-- concluded that global greenhouse gas emissions must begin to drop by 2015 to avert a global climate disaster.

Recalling the deadline, the delegates noted how ''a great divide'' between the North and the South ''threatens the sustainability'' of both.

''Poorer countries, coastal regions and island nations are already under threat and there is adverse impact on temperatures, sea levels, glacier masses, precipitation, agriculture, flora and fauna.'' Indian lawyers stressed ''the urgency with which the world community must act because climate change is increasingly considered as a significant threat to world peace and it is human behaviour which has caused this.'' It urged one and all to recognise interdependence of all life, calling for ''a new ethic as well as a change in life-style, attitude and behaviour that recognises interdependence of all life.'' It asked governments to come up with strict laws to reduce carbon emissions and encourage changes conducive to human survival.

''We also call upon national governments, state (or) regional governments and municipal regulators to make strict and stringent laws and regulations and to enforce these with a firm hand to reduce carbon emissions, increase the energy efficiency of motor vehicles and to set up carbon markets,'' it said.

The advocates urged governments to work on a Global Climate Treaty and public financing for new technologies to capture carbon dioxide emissions-- pumping them underground-- and preclude deforestation.

They called for upgrading legal institutions governing environment and water management.

They also voiced support for resolutions passed by World Jurist Association (WJA) in Lisbon, Portugal in November 2007.

Among other things, the WJA urged governments to seriously re-examine the laws on water resources, considering the ''additional stresses on water resources posed by climate change.''


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